World Peace through the Town Hall
The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace:
Peace and disarmament movements;
Ecology movement
A Strategy for the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace

World Peace through the Town Hall


1) The difference between "peace" and "culture of peace" and a brief history of the culture of war

2) The role of the individual in culture of war and culture of peace

3) Why the state cannot create a culture of peace

4) The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace

--Peace and disarmament movements

--Ecology movement

--Movements for human rights

--Democracy movements

--Women's movement

--International understanding, tolerance and solidarity

--Movements for free flow of information

--The strengths and weaknesses of civil society

5) The basic and essential role of local government in culture of peace

--Sustainable development

--Human rights

--Democratic participation

--Women's equality


--Transparency and the free flow of information

--Education for a culture of peace

--Security and public safety

--Some ongoing initiatives

6) Assessing progress toward a culture of peace at the local level

--Culture of peace measurement at the level of the state

7) Going global: networking of city culture of peace commissions

8) The future transition of the United Nations from control by states to popular control through local governmental representatives

9) What would a culture of peace be like?


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Peace and Disarmament movements. A number of years ago, my book The American Peace Movements, (Adams 1985) analyzed the major anti-war movements of American history, from the movement against the Spanish-American War at the turn of the 20th Century to the Nuclear Freeze movement of the 1980's. At that time there had been seven movements in the United States that had engaged more than a million people, and since then there has been one more, against the recent war in Iraq. In all cases the movements were reactions against a particular war or threat of war, and their goals could be characterized as a "negative peace", i.e. the end of the particular war in question. In no case did the movement rally around a vision or program for a "positive peace", let alone a "culture of peace." As a result, it was possible for these movements to become very broad, involving people with many different perspectives in which the only common cause was opposition to the war or threat of war at hand.

The recent worldwide peace movement against the War in Iraq has been no exception, also being a reaction against the war rather than a movement for a culture of peace. Thus, for example, although I was a member of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), the main umbrella anti-war organization as of 2008 in the United States, and although I often put articles about UFPJ onto the website of the Culture of Peace News Network, I was never asked by UFPJ or its local organizations to speak with them about the culture of peace. The culture of peace is not on their agenda. In fact, the agenda of the peace movement is set by the state, since it is the state that is responsible for the war. As a result, the goals of the peace movement are organized around the central task of lobbying or reforming the state to end the war. In a perverse way, this may help to reinforce the legitimacy of state power.

While traditional peace movements do not provide an institutional framework for the transition to a culture of peace, they do provide a valuable context for consciousness development. For example, although the culture of peace is not on the formal agenda of UFPJ, an Internet search as of 2008 yielded 622 references to culture of peace on the UFPJ local events calendar.

Closely related to anti-war movements have been the movements for disarmament. The disarmament movement usually dates its birth to the 1899 conference at The Hague, Netherlands, which sought to limit the use of increasingly destructive weapons in war. In particular the conference called for a ban on bombing from the air, chemical warfare, and hollow point bullets. The conference also established the Permanent Court of Arbitration which later became the International Court of Justice which is still housed in The Hague. The International Peace Bureau, which was instrumental in the 1899 conference, remains active today on behalf of disarmament.

In recent years, the civil society was responsible for the international treaty to ban anti-personnel mines, which was an important breakthrough for which the Nobel Peace Prize (1997) was granted. This is described in the following excerpt from the award presentation by the Nobel prize committee:

"Our warm welcome to you, the representatives of the ICBL, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and to you, Jody Williams, the campaign's strongest single driving force. You have not only dared to tackle your task, but also proved that, the impossible is possible. You have helped to rouse public opinion all over the world against the use of an arms technology that strikes quite randomly at the most innocent and most defenceless. And you have opened up the possibility that this wave of opinion can be channelled into political action . . ."

"The mobilization of broad popular involvement which we have witnessed bears promise that goes beyond the present issue. It appears to have established a pattern for how to realise political aims at the global level. The ICBL is an umbrella organization for over one thousand nongovernmental organizations, large and small, which have taken up the cause. The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honour them all, and to draw attention to the impact which such broad coordination can achieve.

The hopes for further disarmament after the anti-personnel mine campaign have had very limited success. In the intervening years, the only advance has been the movement against cluster bombs. Meanwhile, the resistance to disarmament by the Great Powers remains as strong as ever. The annual debates on nuclear disarmament at the United Nations are highly politicized and fruitless as the Security Council members (U.S., U.K, France, Russia and China) refuse to renounce or reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. At these debates, a number of non-governmental organizations continue to present their arguments for nuclear disarmament, although their statements get very little publicity in the mass media and, hence, little recognition by the general public.

Ecology movement. Probably the strongest social movement of our era is the ecology movement, which continues to grow as people realize the impact of global warming produced by fossil fuel emissions.

The ecology movement came on the scene in a dramatic fashion at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, known as the Earth Summit. It attracted the largest number of heads of state ever assembled, as well as the largest gathering ever of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) devoted to ecology. The NGO's issued a statement called the Earth Charter:

"1. We agree to respect, encourage, protect and restore Earth's ecosystems to ensure biological and cultural diversity.
2. We recognize our diversity and our common partnership. We respect all cultures and affirm the rights of all peoples to basic environmental needs.
3. Poverty affects us all. We agree to alter unsustainable patterns of production and consumption to ensure the eradication of poverty and to end the abuse of Earth...
4. We recognize that national barriers do not generally conform to Earth's ecological realities. National sovereignty does not mean sanctuary from our collective responsibility to protect and restore Earth's ecosystems...
5 We reject the build up and use of military force and the use of economic pressure as means of resolving conflict. We commit ourselves to pursue genuine peace, which is not merely the absence of war but includes the eradication of poverty, the promotion of social justice and economic, spiritual, cultural and ecological well being.
6. We agree to ensure that decision-making processes and their criteria are clearly defined, transparent, explicit, accessible and equitable.
7. ... those who have expropriated or consumed the majority of Earth's resources or who continue to do so must cease such expropriation or reduce such consumption and must bear the costs of ecological restoration and protection...
8. Women constitute over half of Earth's population. They are a powerful source for change. They contribute more than half the effort to human welfare. Men and women agree that women's status in decision-making and social processes must equitably reflect their contribution...."

I have reproduced here most of the original Earth Charter, as it was reprinted in the monograph UNESCO and a Culture of Peace (Adams 1995) because in many ways it foreshadows the culture of peace declaration and programme of action later submitted to the United Nations. It clearly recognizes that the ecological issue is not isolated, but is linked to other aspects of a culture of peace, including non-violence, disarmament, women's equality, democratic participation and free flow of information.

A new Earth Charter, similar in many respects to the original Earth Charter, was later initiated and formalized separately by a group around Maurice Strong who had been the United Nations Under-Secretary General in charge of the Rio Earth Summit. The new version of the Earth Charter, as well as the process by which it was developed is described in detail on the Earth Charter website at This new version retains the broad perspective of the original version and is especially valuable for the development of a culture of peace consciousness.

There are uncounted thousands of ecological initiatives throughout the world, associated with an unprecedented global consciousness of the issues involved. Typical of social movements they are distinguished by lack of hierarchical organization and by the mobilization of mass numbers of people around simple slogans. Unlike the case in many other social movements, ecological initiatives have received considerable favorable notice in the mass media as major sectors of the media are themselves convinced of the importance of the ecological message. Of special importance for the present analysis, to be described later, is the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.

Continued on next page

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The History of the Culture of War

What is culture and how does it evolve

Warfare in prehistory and its usefulness

The culture of war in prehistory

Data from prehistory before the Neolithic

Enemy images: culture or biology

War and the culture of war at the dawn of history

--Ancient Mesopotamia

--Ancient Egypt

--Ancient China

--Ancient Greece and Rome

--Ancient Crete

--Ancient Indus civilizations

--Ancient Hebrew civilization

--Ancient Central American civilization

Warfare and the origin of the State

Religion and the origin of the State

A summary of the culture of war at the dawn of history

The internal culture of war: a taboo topic

The evolution of the culture of war over the past 5,000 years: its increasing monopolization by the state

--1.Armies and armaments

--2.External conquest and exploitation: Colonialism and Neocolonialism

--3.The internal culture of war and economies based on exploitation of workers and the environment

--4.Prisons and penal systems

--5.The military-industrial complex

--6.The drugs-for-arms trade

--7.Authoritarian control

--8.Control of information

--9.Identification of an "enemy"

--10.Education for the culture of war

--11.Male domination

--12.Religion and the culture of war

--13.The arts and the culture of war



Summary of the history of the culture of war